Consolidation of power

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Consolidation of power

Imagine. You are 27, you have been brought up in Wales and Brittany, you have spent weeks not years in England; you have no experience of government, and you have only ever had a small household of your own. You have hardly any money. But you have won a decisive victory, the old King is dead, and now it's all up to you. It's worth thinking about what your priorities would be if you had been Henry on 8th August 1485.

- The nobility?

- Money?

- Stability?

- Securing London?

- The following were Henry's priorities:

Henry knew that he had to act decisively. He knew this before the battle had even started. He made the extraordinary move of having himself proclaimed King of England the day before the Battle of Bosworth. (So for one day there were two Kings of England!) Why would he do such a thing? Because it gave him the opportunity to treat all those who fought against him to be treated as traitors. This meant that they would either flee the country, be executed, be imprisoned, or be fined a considerable amount of money and placed under a kind of Royal bondage.

Those that had supported him in the field at Bosworth, or while in exile in France, were rewarded with positions in government or in the localities. His uncle Jasper became the Duke of Bedford. He did not give gifts - a trait that continued throughout his reign.

You may think that one of the first things that this Lancastrian King would do is get rid of all of the Yorkists in government, and replace them with loyal Lancastrian supporters. But Henry did not do this. The Historian, Lotherington maintains that Henry's main concern was to neutralise opponents, in other words, not to alienate them. Consequently, men like the Thomas Howard stayed in government.

Nevertheless, the new council did see a number of new faces, like John de Vere and Richard Fox. The first council was appointed in September.

Henry used parliament a lot at the beginning of his reign and very seldomly at the end of it. He needed parliament to do two things for him in 1485. He needed them to swear an oath of allegiance to him, and he needed to raise taxes. (Taxes could not be raised without parliament's consent.)

Consolidation of power

Keeping true to the promise that he made in Rennes cathedral to the Yorkist supporters in the winter of 1483, Henry set about marrying Elizabeth of York. She was in fact the elder sister of the two princes that had disappeared while under the guardianship of Richard III. It was Elizabeth's mother, Elizabeth Woodville, who had really pressed for the match.

But the marriage had to be delayed. As far as the church was concerned, Henry and Elizabeth were too closely related to marry without dispensation (special permission) from the Pope. (Elizabeth's grandmother was a Beaufort.) The Pope granted this dispensation on the grounds that the two were marrying in order to put an end to the conflicts between the two houses. They were married on the 16th January 1486.